I have a confession to make. I HATED required reading in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I loved to read – still do. I didn’t get the nickname “Dictionary” in elementary school because of my athletic prowess. 😛 But tell me I have to read something, and I’ll resist it like politicians resist the truth. I read just enough to ace the exam, but I never finished a single book in English class.
So when I was asked this week about one business or personal development book which I think should be required reading for every business owner/entrepreneur, my inner rebel screamed “NO!!! You can’t make me!”
Then I realized that it wasn’t required reading for me (I’d already read it of my own free will). So I decided to play along. There are any number of great books to choose from. But as I thought about the problems facing many of my clients, one book jumped out: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Though written from a Christian perspective, the principles apply to everyone, regardless of their religious philosophy.
And they especially apply to entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs say their business is their baby. And they tend to it like a first-time parent with a newborn: up at all hours of the night, constantly coddling it and never putting it down. Appropriate boundaries are critical in your business, yet many people struggle to establish them. Boundaries lays the foundation for why boundaries are healthy, necessary, and beneficial in every area of your life.
“Boundaries define us,” they say. “They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom…. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.”
Healthy boundaries can prevent burnout. They help establish a sustainable work-life balance. They keep your business as a source of joy and freedom, instead of being an albatross around your neck. (Nope, I never finished The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, either.)
But setting and maintaining boundaries isn’t always easy.
New boundaries may spark anger.
If people are used to always getting their way, they may get angry when you start to enforce new boundaries in your life and business.
It happened to my husband. As his company grew, he decided to have all calls routed to his receptionist rather than to his personal phone. Totally reasonable and normal, right? When you contact Microsoft, you don’t get to talk to Bill Gates. Well, one of his clients got totally up in arms about this change. She demanded ongoing phone access to my husband – “24/7” in her words. (Even I could only text him at this time, since all calls to his number were actually forwarded.) He stood his ground, enforced his boundaries, and respectfully told this client that she needed to find a new company.
Cloud and Townsend offer this advice for dealing with angry responses: “The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem…Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.”
The road to self-worth – and business success – involves clearly-defined and consistently enforced boundaries, both personally and professionally. When you allow someone to violate your boundaries, you break a fundamental trust with yourself. Where do you need to set or enforce boundaries?